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Yemenite Green Hot Sauce (Zhug)

Yemenite Green Hot Sauce (Zhug)

Feel free to use whatever fresh chile you can find, but remember that this sauce from Yemen, known as zhug, is supposed to pack some heat. You can use this sauce with sandwiches, over grilled meats, or as a topping for veggies.


  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 4 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 1 cup very finely chopped parsley
  • ¾ cup very finely chopped cilantro
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Special Equipment

  • A spice mill or mortar and pestle

Recipe Preparation

  • Remove cardamom seeds from pods; discard pods. Toast cardamom seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over medium-high heat, swirling often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice mill or mortar and pestle and let cool; finely grind.

  • Place chiles and garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with a large pinch of salt and smash into a paste with the side of a chef’s knife. (Or use that mortar and pestle here too.)

  • Transfer chile paste to a small bowl and work in spice mixture, parsley, cilantro, and oil; season with salt. Let sit 10 minutes for flavors to marry. Stir in lemon juice.

  • Do Ahead: Sauce (without lemon juice) can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let come to room temperature before stirring in lemon juice.

Reviews SectionAnonymousMontréal04/05/20seymourkittyPortland12/19/19

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Drive down any main highway in Israel on a Saturday, and you&rsquore bound to run into a makeshift jachnun stand on the side of the road. The best-known food of the Yemenite Jewish community has now become a part of mainstream Israeli cuisine, along with a whole host of other Yemenite dishes, and for good reason. Buttery, doughy, rich, and slow-cooked, Yemenite cuisine get its kick from spicy and herbaceous condiments, and spice blends that aren&rsquot afraid to go bold or go home. Perfect for warming up mid-winter, or sweating it out in the summer heat, these are nine Yemenite foods you&rsquove got to try ASAP.

Portland Adult Soapbox Derby

Before we dive into zhug, remember a few weeks ago when I posted this apricot tart recipe ? I shared some photos of a gravity race car some friends of mine were making for the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby race. Well that race happened this past Saturday, and yours truly was there with his super-awesome deluxe goofy friend Lisa.

Now where we last left the car for team Moist Thunder (no idea why it’s called that–have to ask my friend Jill), my sole contribution was to cut a few pieces of steel and serve people apricot tart. And in the end that’s all I did. I did get to test drive the prototype though. That test session ended with us breaking a spindle (i.e. a wheel literally broke off of the car, which is, um, really bad).

Well the car got an upgrade and came in 11th overall against 54 entries Not bad for a first year. It’s number 16 in the photo above.

The highlights of the race, however, are the “art cars”. They’re cleaver. They’re interesting. They’re slow. They’re death traps. This is in relief to the “fast cars” like Jills.

The highlight of the art cars this year would have to be the giant, Giant Slinky Weenier Dog Car. Fifteen feet high. Copper. Slow. Gargantuan. Staring at you with those dopey dead eyes. It was a masterpiece.

In a city that is gentrifying and growing quickly, The derby is a glorious throwback to a time when Portland was far more quirky and fun.

But enough about grown women and men who refuse to grow up.

Recipe: Zhug (Yemeni Hot Sauce)

This is my version of this traditional Yemenite sauce, from my book Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.

Zhug was brought to Israel by Yemenite Jews and is now the hot condiment of choice in Israel. You will find zhug (also called z'houg) made with green or red chiles in falafel stands and in the kebab restaurants that serve shawarma—vertically skewered and roasted pieces of meat—accompanied by many different salads, spreads, relishes, and freshly baked pita bread. Zhug is made with fresh chiles, garlic, coriander, cardamom, and other spices. It is usually very hot, so you should start with a small amount. Mixed with soaked and ground fenugreek, it becomes hilbe. I prefer to make my zhug with green chiles, to distinguish it from the other red hot sauces of the Eastern Mediterranean.

You can add a little zhug to soups, pasta, and bean dishes, besides serving it as a condiment with falafel or any fried vegetable slices. To make a delicious low-fat sauce or dip for vegetables, mix it with reduced or nonfat Greek yogurt.

• 10 to 14 fresh green chiles or jalapeños, seeded if you like and coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 6 to 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom
• 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
• 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 to 4 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and pulse several times, until you get a smooth paste. You will have to scrape down all the bits and pieces that stick to the sides of the bowl.

Pack in a jar and store in the refrigerator. Zhug will keep for one to two weeks. You can also freeze it, but it will lose some of its garlicky flavor.

To read Aglaia's story about fenugreek and its use in a traditional paste that often accompanies zhug, click here.

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Red Zhug (Yemenite Hot Sauce)

Green and Red Zhug are the the prevalent table seasonings in a yemeni house hold. Yes Zhug is spicy but it is also bright with lemon juice and has a depth of flavor beyond compare. It might just give Sriracha a run for its money.

One July night in Israel my boyfriend, Hanaan took me to a friend’s house for a classic Yemenite feast. Yemenis don’t eat, or snack or sup, they feast. Their fridge might contain a crust of bread. Yet when you sit down at their rickity kitchen table and share that crust of bread, as ululating songs pour from the old transistor in the corner, you will find that when you rise from it three hours later full from laughter and stories, that you have indeed feasted.

We were but fledglings in love (he 18, me 19) the night we arrived for Shabbat dinner in a neighboring town. As we sat down at the dinner table with three generations of family the grandmother/matriarch took it upon herself to test my worthiness.

In European fairytales one’s gentility is tested through piling mattress upon mattress onto a single hard pea. If your princess’ tender body is unable to sleep on such a rough object she is worthy to be wedded to the prince.

Not so in the modern Yemenite household. Out came the home-made Green Zhug. Grandma toyed with me by putting a hearty spoonful on her plate as she warned me off from even tasting it.

Oh no, don’t try this it is much too hot for an American.

My boyfriend Hanaan reached for the jar, placed a dab on his bread, took a nibble and began fanning his mouth.

Grandma cackled, she actually cackled, it is rare to hear a good cackle in real life.

I could smell the Zhug’s heady aroma from where I sat. I spooned some onto my bread and took a bite. All eyes were on me. I moaned in pleasure as I bit into my food. Wow this shit was amazing. I scooped more onto my plate and dug into my meal.

Grandma nodded knowingly and left the table. When she returned she held a glittering ruby the size of a grown man’s fist…No not really. What she held in her gnarled hands was a glass jar half full with a paste more beautiful than rubies. She stood by my chair and deftly place a tiny mound of Red Zhug on the edge of my plate. A hush fell over the boisterous table. I reached out and with my bread mopped up the whole serving and boldly popped it in my mouth. Yes there was heat but it was mitigated by the floral bloom of coriander, and the dusky taste of cumin.

I smiled. She smiled. The table smiled.

Grandma placed her hand on my shoulder and spoke to Hanaan.

Check out my new Aquafaba page! For tips, tricks and to see all of my Aquafabulous recipes.

Zhug: This spicy Yemenite hot sauce is as versatile as pesto

Zhug, also known as zhoug, is a staple of Israeli cuisine, it’s like a Middle-Eastern spicy salsa verde. Once you start using it you’ll realise that a teaspoon of zhug enhances most dishes. Traditionally, zhug is made by grinding the ingredients together using two stones, or a pestle and mortar. I tend to use my nutribullet, it doesn’t grind the herbs and make as creamy a paste as it would if you were doing it by hand but it’s a practical alternative when you don’t have a lot of time. This Yemenite hot sauce is usually made from chillies, coriander and parsley with several optional extras. Cardamom is usually added. I made mine without it first just to see but adding a little pinch of ground cardamom makes such a huge but subtle difference. There’s something floral and exotic happening underneath all of that chili heat and that is thanks to the cardamom.

Cardamom is similar to cloves in a way, it’s so pungent that if you are too heavy handed with it your sauce could be ruined, so add a little pinch at a time.

Zhug aficionados may recoil at the thought of me throwing some jarred jalapenos in here and then adding green pepper but really I love the heat of jalapenos and the green pepper adds texture. I’m always at a loss for what to do with green peppers so this is a good way to use them up.

I use this zhug like a spicy hot pesto. It can be swirled through yogurt for a quick dip or sauce for barbecued lamb, used as a marinade for fish, dolloped into soup just before serving or mixed through rice or quinoa for a quick shortcut to flavour. Covered in an airtight container, it will keep in the fridge for at least a week. Mixed with a little more olive oil and some lemon juice makes it a zippy salad dressing.

I recently discovered how delicious roasting mussels in the oven is. The high heat ensures beautifully cooked mussels without all of the usual mollusc scented steam filling the kitchen. Mussels are the ultimate fast food, taking around 10 minutes to cook. They’re nutritious and so surprisingly cheap. I got a bag just over 1kg for €5 at the Farmers’ Market. Yet it always feels like such a treat when we buy them. Serve with crusty bread, a green salad or some skinny French fries.

What are the ingredients in Trader Joe’s zhoug?

Trader Joe’s version is spicy and herby and very, very delicious. I have to admit, though, that I was disappointed by the level of spice.

The lid proclaimed that it was “very spicy,” but I would call it medium. And for me, the spicier the better. When you make it yourself, you can customize the spice level to your liking.

The ingredients are cilantro, canola oil, jalapeno peppers, chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, sea salt, cumin seed.

Yemenite Green Hot Sauce (Zhug) - Recipes

Z&aposhug, or schug, is the Yemenite version of hot sauce. It is very popular in Israeli dishes, especially on top of shawarma or falafel, and even in soup! There are several varieties, including red, green, and brown. This green version is rich with cilantro, parsley, and jalapeño peppers. 


  • 4 green serrano or jalapeño peppers, stems removed and seeds removed but reserved
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, rinsedand dried
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley, rinsed and dried
  • 2 green cardamom pods, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup olive oil


Put peppers, garlic, cilantro, parsley, cumin, cardamom, and salt in a food processor. Begin processing and gradually add ¼ cup olive oil, then puree. Adjust for seasonings, adding pepper seeds if you want more heat. Remove contents to a glass container and cover with olive oil.

This will keep for months in a refrigerator in an airtight jar.

Recipe originally published in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Fall 2014 Subscribe Now

Zhoug (Yemenite Hot Sauce)

Zhoug (Skhug or Zhug) is a great hot sauce that borders on being a spicy pesto. In the Middle East it is the hot sauce condiment offered to spice things up. This versatile sauce can be added to dishes to brighten, spice and add a punch of flavor to whatever you are cooking. I’ve made larger batches with more oil and used it to marinade grilled chicken, tossed a teaspoon into a swiss chard saute, or as pictured, used it to make a spicy Zhoug Egg Salad. Ultimately it is meant to be a powerful and spicy sauce where a little goes a long way. Given that chilies can vary in spice you can use more or less than the suggested amount depending on what level of spice you enjoy.

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